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Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition

   Welcome to my forum. 

Here you will find more than 6 years of questions and my answers. It is searchable and offers a great deal of information. 

Currently, I am discontinuing new questions. This may change in the future, but in the meantime, please know that It has been a true pleasure serving you. 

Take a look at my Nutrition Library and Tips of the Month for a variety of answers on selected topics. Be sure to sign up for my monthly e-newsletter, Forage for Thought

I also have a growing number of recordings on "Teleseminars on Nutrition Topics that Concern You" as well as the new, Spotlight on Equine Nutrition Series -- printed versions of favorite teleseminars.

And finally, look for my articles in a variety of local publications and online newsletters, as well as the Horse Journal, where I am the Contributing Nutrition Editor.  


All the best,

 Dr. Getty 


Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
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Feeding of Hay

Dear Dr. I have 2 horses that I board on a small farm with a women who also has 2 horses. Hers are Arabs and difficult keepers, mine are Standardbreds and easy keepers. I provide my own hay in the form of round bales that have been kept inside since harvest, and are also kept inside while being fed. Thus no mold,ect. I requested that my horses only have access to the hay for 8 hours a day or so, because they are wasting alot of it, and they are also getting extremely overweight. After seeing all the waste that goes on, and how overweight they are, I have recommended that feeding time be cut down even more. I want them to have all they need, but can clearly see that they are getting too much. She disagrees. She wants them to have free range all the time, and thinks they need grain too, because she grains her animals. She feels if they need to be able to have free range of feed no matter what. I tried bringing square bales out so she would just feed in a more limited way, but she ended up feeding those faster than the round bales. She leaves bale after bale on the ground, and all over so they had many places to go to, to eat at anytime they wanted. How much is too much, and how can I get her to understand that more is not always better? Spring is almost here, and Im affraid I will never get the weight off. (She also throws bales of hay into a perfectly good pasture in the summer to suppliment the grass!) Help:-?

Where are you from? Illinois

How did you locate this forum? Horse Illustated

Re: Feeding of Hay

Hello Linda,

Your friend is correct when it comes to feeding hay. Your horses, though easy keepers, should not go for hours without anything to eat. This goes against the way nature made horses -- they are trickle feeders and need to graze 22 out of every 24 hours (they rest for about 2 hours total, but not all at once -- so hay should be available to them 24/7).

Actually, by removing the hay from them, they will do exactly the opposite of what you're trying to achieve -- they will GAIN weight. This is because of two main reasons. First, their metabolic rates slow down, making them burn calories at a much slower rate and hence, gain weight more readily. And, second, being without forage to graze on is very, very stressful for horses. This leads to the secretion of the stress hormone known as cortisol. The result of more cortisol is FAT STORAGE.

Horses are very able to self-regulate their intake if given the chance. If they are only given a set amount of hay each day, they will likely eat it very quickly and will be anxious for more. But, if given all they want, they will overeat at first (for a week or less) and then, once they see that they can walk away and relax and the hay will still be there when they return, they will self-regulate their intake.

I have seen this in literally hundreds of cases where overweight horses start to lose weight when given all the hay they want. Not only do they end up eating less, but eating actually stimulates the metabolic rate, making them burn calories faster, and they start to lose weight!

I don't agree with your friend about supplying grain -- an overweight horse is already insulin resistant by nature and adding cereal grains increases insulin production, making more fat.

So, a diet that has grass hay, a little alfalfa added in to create a high quality protein, and a small low starch/low sugar meal each day to add as a carrier for a comprehensive vitamin/mineral supplement, is how your horses will do best.

Thanks for writing about this very important issue.

All the best,

Dr. Getty

Where are you from? Bayfield, CO